How to Propagate Bleeding Heart in 7 Easy Steps

Want more showy shade plants for your garden? Find out how to propagate Bleeding Heart plants in 7 easy steps with gardening expert Paige Foley.

A row of dainty pink bleeding heart blooms dangle from an arching stem in a shady garden.

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The easiest way to expand your garden without spending tons of money is via propagation. Propagation is easy to do and can be done by all gardeners, no matter the experience-level. Bleeding hearts are on the list of plants you can propagate with ease.

Bleeding hearts are hard in zones 3 to 9, so they grow throughout the United States. They are noted for their unique heart-shaped blooms. This springtime bloomer loves the shade, and once temperatures become too hot, they go dormant until spring.

You’re ready to add more bleeding heart plants to your shade garden or container, but where do you start? In this article, we will explore 7 easy steps for propagating bleeding hearts. Let’s go!

Step 1: Choosing a Method of Propagation

Large green plant in a garden with pink, heart shaped flowers growing in a row along long red stems. The green leaves surrounding the flowers have three clusters with three prongs on each cluster.
There are a few ways to propagate your bleeding heart successfully.

There are three different methods of propagation for bleeding hearts. The most common and most successful is division. This method involves digging up a bleeding heart and separating sections of the root mass. This method allows you to transfer roots and foliage and gives the plant the best chance at survival.

The second method is via cuttings. This method is a little less successful than division, but it’s a great method nonetheless. This method involves cutting young stems from the plant and placing them in new pots until they are ready for transplanting. This is a great option to share bleeding hearts with friends, family, and other gardeners.

The last and most difficult method is propagating by seed. Bleeding heart seeds have a difficult dormancy that requires cold temperatures to break. If you choose to propagate by seed, it’s best to plan ahead and be prepared to gather, plant, and grow the seeds. If you’re a gardener who enjoys a challenge, give propagating bleeding heart from seeds a try!

Step 2: When to Propagate

Small green plant in a garden with pink, heart shaped flowers and green leaves with three prongs.
Dividing plants, taking cuttings to root, or planting from seed all have different timing.

This is a very important step to ensure the success of your propagated bleeding heart. There are a few ways to propagate bleeding hearts; the first method we will discuss is division. This is the most common method and the most successful one.

Division can occur in early spring or in the fall. If you choose to divide in the spring, do so a few weeks before the last frost. You don’t want to disturb the plant once it begins to bud. This will cause stress and may cause delayed growth.

Division in the fall should be done once the foliage has died back. By this point, the plant has entered dormancy, and disturbing the roots is safer.

Let’s talk about cuttings next! Typically, the best time of year for propagating cuttings is from the late spring to early summer. This ensures you have new, vigorous plant material to work with. You can do cuttings in the late summer once the flowers have died back, but this method is typically less successful.

Finally, seeds should ideally be sown in the fall. This enables them to overwinter in the soil and become naturally cold-stratified. The colder temperatures during winter dormancy and the gradually warming temperatures in spring provide the perfect signal to the seed that it’s time to germinate.

Step 3: Prep for Propagation

A woman's hand holding a terra-cotta pot filled with dar, loose soil. Her other hand is using a shovel to add more soil into the pot.
Wherever you decide to plant your clippings, have loose, fluffy soil.

Preparing your space to propagate your bleeding heart is a good practice. Gathering the materials, amending them as needed, and filling pots with soil set you up for success. Doing this in advance will allow you to make the propagation and immediately place the bleeding heart in its new home.

The propagation method will determine what you’ll need to prepare. Divisions can be planted directly into the desired final location, whether a garden bed or a container. Cuttings should be started in pots indoors and kept indoors in a controlled environment until they set roots. Seeds can be started indoors or outdoors depending on whether you’re direct-sowing or starting in containers.

Remove any mulch, rocks, or debris from the chosen location if you add divisions to an existing bed. Ensure you have loose, fluffy soil to place the new plant into. This loose soil will be beneficial as the plant grows, allowing roots to establish easily.

If you choose to plant in a container, choose a large and well-draining one. This will allow proper root growth and allow excess water to drain easily. Place loose potting soil in the container and dig a hole for the new cutting, seed, or division to be placed into.

Step 4: How to Propagate by Division

Woman wearing blue gloves, holding a blue shovel, digging up a small green plant from the dirt.
Dividing your bleeding heart has a higher success rate.

The best way to propagate bleeding hearts is by division. They take best to this method, and the success rate is fairly high.

The roots spread horizontally along the soil’s surface, so you will want to loosen up the soil quite a ways back from the surface foliage. You want to ensure you get as much root mass as possible. Don’t panic if a few roots break off; this won’t harm the plant.

Shake the dirt from the root mass and look for pink-tinged root buds. These are the growing points where the bleeding heart will produce new shoots. They will be near the crown and should be easy to spot. Take a sharp knife and cut off sections, making certain there are at least two to three buds per root section. Try to select sections that have both existing foliage as well as new buds forming.

Once you’re finished taking cuttings from the bleeding heart, place the original plant back into its prior location. Do not allow the roots of the original bleeding heart to dry out. Dig shallow holes about 2 inches deep and 2 feet apart for the new divisions. Cover the divisions with soil and water thoroughly.

Step 5: How to Propagate by Cutting

Three potted plants with plastic bags covering them.
Placing a plastic bag over your cutting will help act as a greenhouse.

Begin by selecting a plant with healthy green leaves and new pliable stems. The best time to take a stem cutting is early morning when the plant is well-hydrated.

Once you’ve identified the right plant, look for the new fresh stems to cut. Take the stem and cut about 2 to 3 inches down from the tip of the stem, just above a leaf node. Remove the leaves from the bottom half of the cut stem. Roots will grow from where the leaves once were.

When you have your cuttings prepared, using some rooting hormone to speed root development is beneficial. Place a small amount of root hormone powder in a dish. Dip the cut end of each cutting into water, shake off the excess, then roll the cut end in the rooting hormone. Carefully place these cuttings into a prepared hole in each pot.

While rooting hormone isn’t 100% necessary, it will speed the plant’s development!

Once potted, place a plastic bag over the pots to create a greenhouse effect. Do not allow the plastic bag to touch the cutting. If the bag touches the plant, it can cause fungal development on the cutting. Use some short stakes or even chopsticks to support the bag’s weight.

Place pots into a warm, brightly lit area, but avoid direct sunlight. Cuttings can take up to two weeks to establish roots. Monitor your cuttings closely to track their development and ensure the soil doesn’t dry out. When you see new leaves starting to develop, you will know you succeeded!

Step 6: How to Propagate by Seed

Close up of two green seed pods with small, round, black seeds exposed.
After gathering your bleeding heart seeds, it’s important to plant them as soon as possible.

If bleeding hearts are allowed to go to seed, they will produce green pods where the heart-shaped blooms once hung. When the pods are broken open, they will reveal shiny black seeds.

Once you’ve gathered the seeds, it’s best to plant them shortly after gathering. The seeds need to go through a period of cold temperatures to help break dormancy. Seeds have a better chance of germinating if planted in the fall, especially in colder regions. Once planted, water thoroughly and wait till spring to see if your seeds will emerge.

If you harvest seeds in late summer but forget to plant immediately or want to wait till spring, your seeds still need to go through a period of cold to break dormancy. Once harvested, allow the seeds to dry fully and place into a paper bag. Store this bag in the refrigerator for 2-4 weeks, making sure it stays completely dry so the seeds do not start to germinate in the bag. Do not freeze your seeds!

To start bleeding hearts in pots, begin by gathering pots that are large and well-draining. One-gallon nursery pots are an excellent choice. Fill with soil and create 2 to 3 holes that are half an inch deep. Place one seed per hole and cover with dirt.

Bleeding hearts germinate in temperatures that range from 40 to 55 F. Place the pot in indirect sunlight and keep soils moist. The seeds should germinate within 3 to 4 weeks from planting.

Keep your bleeding hearts in their original pot for a season if you can. This allows the plant to grow strong and healthy roots. If moved too soon, the plant can become stressed and won’t adjust well. Once the roots become overcrowded in the pot, you can transplant to your desired location or move to a larger pot.

Step 7: After Care

Close up of a green plant with little pink flowers hanging from its long red stems, planted in a metal container in a garden.
After propagation is complete, watch for signs of stress and provide the proper living conditions.

Once you have made your propagations, it’s important to provide the right aftercare so the bleeding heart propagations survive. Providing proper sunlight and water is critical to the survival of your bleeding heart.

If you have propagated by cutting or seed, monitor your bleeding heart’s soil conditions carefully. Potted plants can dry out very quickly, and bleeding hearts need moist soil. Spritz with water when soil moisture appears low. Avoid overwatering, as this can cause root rot and mold.

If you notice mold forming in the plastic bag or on the plant, remove the plastic bag at once. Mold can spread quickly and kill your newly propagated bleeding heart. Allow a few days for the plant and soil to dry, and place a new, clean plastic bag over the plant.

Pay attention to your newly propagated plants. Watch to ensure they properly germinate and begin to grow healthy foliage. Confirm that they aren’t showing signs of too much sunlight and water. If conditions are ideal in the new location, consider transplanting once the plant goes dormant.

Bleeding hearts are good at letting you know if they are stressed. A few symptoms of stressed bleeding hearts are yellowing leaves, lack of blooms, or brown and dead foliage. If these symptoms appear shortly after planting, your bleeding heart needs tending to. Evaluate the growing conditions to help determine what may be causing your bleeding heart to become stressed.

Final Thoughts

Propagation is a cost-effective and efficient way to add more beautiful heart-shaped blooms to your garden. With many ways to propagate, there is sure to be a method that works for every gardener. After a little time and patience, you’ll have springtime blooms to spread throughout the garden. Happy planting!

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